About the Global Detention Project:
Aims, Origins, Staff



The Global Detention Project (GDP) is an inter-disciplinary research initiative that investigates the role detention plays in states’ responses to global migration, with a special focus on the policies and physical infrastructures of detention. The project is based at the Graduate Institute’s Global Migration Centre and has received financial support from the Open Society Foundations, Zennstrom Philanthropies, the Swiss Network for International Studies, and the Geneva International Academic Network.  


Migration-related detention is the practice of detainingtypically on administrative (as opposed to criminal) groundsasylum seekers and irregular immigrants until they can be deported, their identities established, or their claims adjudicated. Because many national legal systems do not have clear rules for administrative detention, migration detainees often face legal uncertainties, including lack of access to the outside world, limited possibilities of challenging detention through the courts, and/or absence of limitations on the duration of detention.


To assess the growth and evolution of detention institutions, project researchers are creating a comprehensive database of detention sites that categorises detention facilities along several dimensions, including security level, bureaucratic chain of command, facility type (is a given site an exposed camp, a dedicated migrant detention facility, or a common prison), spatial segregation (are there separate cells for criminals and administrative detainees, for women and men), and size. This data is gradually being ported to the GDP website in the form of maps, lists, and country profiles. Eventually, the project intends to make the entire database fully interactive with the website.


Project researchers also assess the legal frameworks of this practice, in both international and domestic law. Researchers have undertaken an overall assessment of international law as it pertains to migration-related detention and begun profiling domestic policies and legal guarantees as part of a longer-term effort to assess the impact of law on detention practices and the degree to which the treatment of detaineess conforms with international commitments.


Ultimately, the GDP’s goals are threefold: 1) to provide researchers, advocates, and journalists with a measurable and regularly updated baseline for analysing the growth and evolution of detention practices and policies; 2) to encourage scholarship in this often under-studied aspect of the immigration phenomenon; and 3) to facilitate accountability and transparency in the treatment of detainees.



The Global Detention Project was originally founded in 2005-2006 by Michael  Flynn, a former investigative reporter specializing in U.S. across-the-border interdiction practices whose doctoral studies formed the basis of the GDP's research agenda, and George Kourous, the former director of the Americas Program at the International Relations Center based in New Mexico. The project subsequently received funding from the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN) to undertake research into migrant detention practices across the globe as part of a limited-term research project based at the Graduate Institute's Political Science Department. The GIAN-funded research project received guidance from an advisory group made up of representatives from several academic institutions, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations, including the University of Geneva’s University Center for International Humanitarian Law, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Labor Office, the International Organization for Migration, and the International Detention Coalition.


Project Team

Michael Flynn: Founder and Project Manager (More info)

Mariette Grange: Senior Researcher (More info)

Izabella Majcher: Research Assistant (More info)


David Sylvan: Adviser, data management (More info)

Vincent Chetail: Adviser, legal research (More info)


Parastou Hassouri: Consultant  

Hui Wang: Consultant 

Thomas Messerli: Webmaster


Former interns and researchers: Bassiar Ali, Cecilia Cannon, Theo Coonen, Christina Fialho, Claudie Fioroni, Anette Havardsen Skaar, Aiko Holvikivi, Cari Jeffries, Kelsey Jost-Creegan, Adrian Klocke, Yuki Kobayashi, Alexandra Lamb, Christa Lopez, Ben Lumsdaine, Alexander MacKinnon, Karen Marín Hernández, Luke McCallin, Sam Moog, Alix Nasri, Navitri Putri Guillaume, Ioana Raluca Balas, Isabel Ricupero, Jonathan Ruta, Marizen Santos, Noah Schwartz, Giulia Soldan, and Yvette Stephens.